Thursday, November 26, 2015


Buena Park head coach Anthony White has energized the Coyotes since taking over in 2010. White, a former University of Utah defensive back, has Buena Park preparing for a Southern Section playoff game against San Clemente on Friday, Nov. 27 (photo credit: Rose Palmisano/The OC Register). 
Since May 2015, Buena Park head coach Anthony White and his Coyotes have found their tenacity and inspiration through the watchful eyes of the visitors who flock to the Orange County school: college football recruiters.

White, once mentored by Urban Meyer and Kyle Whittingham while playing defensive back at the University of Utah from 1999-2002, said nearly 64 coaches from different universities have reached out to him regarding his players.

“They all want the same thing - fast, physical and aggressive football players who are great men on and off the field,” White said.

That influences White to turn his own players into the three aforementioned action words to help deliver a winning product – and keep title hopes alive.

The Coyotes (10-2) have used a relentless defense and explosive versatility out of multiple players to chase down a California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section Southwest Division title, as the Coyotes will now take on San Clemente on Friday, Nov. 27 in a semi-final game.

And, along with the wins, Buena Park players have become recipients of some collegiate scholarships.

There’s lead pass rusher Andrew Wright, who landed a Fresno State pledge recently. Then there’s defensive back and wide receiver Elijah Gates, who has an offer from the University of Cincinnati. Hybrid defensive end/linebacker Cedric Dashiel II has drawn Big 12 and Mountain West interest.

Buena Park’s success, though, isn’t based on talent. As White points out, it’s through a certain area that he wants his players to focus on.

“You can watch all the film, draw up 100 difference blitzes and coverages and if you don't focus on playing your best it won’t matter,” White said. “Something that we do special at Buena Park is focus on us: how can we get better and what do we need to do? We come into each week with a sense of what we need to do rather than what other teams want to try to do to us. We focus on setting the tone and playing with extreme attitude and effort.”

Buena Park comes equipped with an exotic defense that confuses offenses and limits points. The Coyotes will line up in three, four or sometimes six man fronts – then attack throughout the night.

“Our Student-Athletes understand their responsibilities and we have a few motto's: "DO YOUR JOB" and "DO YOUR 1/11th,” White said. “We don’t expect one player to take over the entire game, we expect them to do their 1/11th to the best they possibly can and we believe we have more Student-Athletes who will do their 1/11th than the other team.”

Gates has two primary roles on the Coyotes: burn defensive backs at wide receiver and shut down receivers on offense. Against Corona Del Mar on Nov. 20, Gates locked up the Sea Kings’ top receiver Peter Bush to one catch and seven yards in the 35-17 romp.

The Class of 2017 prospect is an example of a Coyote who accepts his roles.

“I played my game study on their offense really well and knew that 75% of their touchdowns came from their throwing game. Plus I knew they ran timing routes and thought press coverage will work well against their offense,” Gates said.

But Gates doesn’t want to gloat about his accomplishments.

“I want to give a shout out to my defensive line for putting pressure on the quarterback,” Gates said. “We just have players who want to play, compete and put Buena Park on the map as one of the elite schools to compete against.”

Dashiel II, who already has 30 career sacks before his senior year, likes to compare the Coyotes to the NFL’s best defense.

“We’re the Broncos, because they have great defensive backs who cover, good defensive linemen and linebackers and they fly around,” Dashiel II said. “Those guys are the standard and we are trying to be like them in some small way.”

White, however, doesn’t compare his team to the best in the NFL or college. He compares them to Buena Park.

“I require a lot of our defensive players, not just athletically, but require my players to focus on their awareness, effort, toughness, attitude and instinct. I don't want corners, safeties, linemen, linebackers or even kickers - I WANT FOOTBALL PLAYERS, PERIOD," White said. "You can play football players anywhere on the field and they'll make plays, because FOOTBALL PLAYERS are accountable, tough and selfless; all essential qualities of not only being a great player, but a great man.”

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Elijah Lilly is one of two under-the-radar athletes for San Bernardino powerhouse Cajon High School, starring at wide receiver, returner and cornerback (photo credit: 247Sports).
We’re going to do something rare with this latest feature for Cali Gold Mine. We’ll highlight not one, but two prep teammates who have brought versatility, physicality and play-making prowess to traditional San Bernardino based powerhouse Cajon High School.

Elijah Lilly and Tyrone Gasaway have made fools out of defenders who have done the following: cover them on punts, try to run past them at wide receiver or attempt to tackle them at running back.

Their big plays is among the reasons why the Cowboys sit at 11-1 and have continued their pursuit of a California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Southern Section Inland Division title.

Here’s a breakdown of both:

ELIJAH LILLY: “Feisty” describes the 5-foot-11, 170-pound senior, who has made his top plays on defense. Lilly takes on the role of blanketing the opposition’s top receiver and responded with five interceptions and 24 pass breakups, both team-high’s through 12 games. He’s physical at the line and stays near the hips of the receiver during coverages. Quarterbacks have a difficult time throwing the ball his way. He won’t just stay over his receiver, but he has keen awareness of where the ball is going and is strong at reading the quarterback’s eyes. As a return ace, he shows an explosive second gear with the ball and can stretch plays for 90-yard scampers. He doesn’t get the ball much at receiver and has done his most damage on swing passes. If he stays at receiver, he’ll have to polish his deep game.

TYRONE GASAWAY: “Power” describes Gasaway’s game at running back. On Wing-T formations, Gasaway takes the pitch, finds his opening and then barrels past one to three defenders for extra yards. With his 6-foot-2, 195-pound frame, he’s reliable on third and long plays or inside the red zone. He gains good separation on his routes against defenders and wins one-on-one battles consistently. Also claims victories against soft zone coverages. I’ll need to see more of his ability to fight jams and how he does as a deep threat. Overall, he’s a reliable target.

FINAL BREAKDOWN: These 2016 guys are late bloomers on the recruiting trail and they look like they can land at a college between now and the spring, regardless if they go the junior college route or four-year level. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015


Linebacker Khalil Hodge once led the state in tackles while playing for Stockton-St. Mary's, but found himself under-recruited and undervalued. But now, the City College of San Francisco defender has landed two Football Bowl Subdivision offers from the University of Idaho and Buffalo (photo contributed). 
Khalil Hodge was once the state’s leading tackler at Stockton-St. Mary’s who had trouble with landing a scholarship offer from a Football Bowl Subdivision program.

But that changed when the 6-foot-1, 240-pound Class of 2015 graduate took the one hour, 32 minute trek to City College of San Francisco and play junior college football.

The undersized and under-recruited linebacker received two FBS pledges from the University of Idaho and Buffalo during the week of Nov. 16, solidifying his case as a bona fide national recruit and making Hodge realize that going to CCSF was the best thing to happen to his football career.

“Coming to San Francisco helped me so much with getting exposure to different big time schools,” Hodge said. “City is a storied program known for getting kids maximum exposure and I felt like I had the talent to go bigger than the options that I had coming out of high school. So I rolled the dice a little bit and now I feel like I am starting to get recruited the way I felt like I deserved.”

In Stockton, Hodge was known for penetrating through gaping holes along the line and halt running backs in their tracks. He still terrorizes running backs at the collegiate level, except he’s added pass coverage skills and forced fumbles to his list of strengths.
Hodge intercepted two passes and jarred two footballs loose for the 10-1 Rams, who will face Chabot College on Saturday, Nov. 28 in the Northern California Football Championship game.

Like the way he closes fast on anyone holding the football, Hodge said his recruiting period picked up in a rush.

“It feels great to land two offers especially because it happened so quick,” Hodge said. “With the season beginning to wind down, I was beginning to wonder what I was going to do for next year. Whether it was get the opportunity to leave or have to come back to CCSF for the Spring.”

Hodge added that the Vandals and Bulls want him on board in Dec. 2015 and “potentially contend for a job right away.”

Said Hodge: “They both want me to play inside, either at the Mike (inside linebacker spot) or at Will (weakside outside linebacker) and be more accustomed to what I did in high school. Both staffs are highly interested and want me to get over there for a visit in early December.”

Hodge’s transition from St. Mary’s and CCSF wasn’t hard. He said the two powerhouses carry the same level of expectations.

“Both are big time programs at the high school and JUCO level, plus they have great staffs who really take care of their players,” Hodge said.

While the Sun Belt and Metro Athletic Conference (MAC) schools want Hodge to jump into its talent pool early, Hodge said he won’t commit to either team right away.

“I'm actually going to ride this recruiting period out,” Hodge said. “In high school, I always dreamed of getting highly recruited and it didn't really happen so now that it's starting to pick up, I definitely don't want to cut it (the recruiting period) short. Also, I have never been to Idaho or New York, so hopefully as soon as the season is over I want to visit both before I make a decision that will affect me and my family for the rest of my life.”


Josh Hokit damaged Edison on offense and defense in the Cougars' 28-6 home win over the Tigers on Friday, Nov. 20. Clovis will now have a rematch against Tri-River Athletic Conference rival Clovis North on Black Friday (photo credit: Central Valley Football). 
With former Oakland Raider legend and Clovis Cougar icon Daryle Lamonica watching from the sidelines, Clovis advanced to its fifth semifinal appearance in six years, knocking off last year’s Central Section Division I champion Fresno-Edison 28-6 on Friday, Nov. 20, at the house named after the former quarterback.

Josh Hokit ensured that his Cougars wouldn’t disappoint Lamonica or the rest of the blue and yellow faithful who filled the Lamonica Stadium seats. The Drexel University commit scored twice – once on a crucial fumble recovery inside the Edison 5-yard line for the opening touchdown and on a 7-yard scamper for the game’s final points – to propel the Cougars into another home game against rival Clovis North on Black Friday with a trip to the section title game on the line.

The first score proved to be the momentum shifter. The Cougars (10-1) marched all the way to the Edison 1-yard line before the Tigers’ defensive wall prevented Clovis from scoring. However, Tiger running back Jaylen King lost control of the ball and Hokit scooped up the loose pigskin for the 2-yard touchdown.

From there, Clovis took complete control.

Quarterback Sean Kuenzinger connected with University of Idaho commit J.J. Wills on a 23-yard scoring strike to take the 14-0 lead. Nash Vidmar and Hokit added the Cougars’ final touchdowns.

The win was retaliation for last year’s loss to the Tigers at Sunnyside High’s stadium, as the Cougars blew a 14-point lead and lost 21-14 to the eventual section champs.


Social media has been abuzz since 8 p.m. on Friday night regarding Jake Constantine’s playing status, after the Camarillo quarterback was ejected during the Scorpions’ 38-7 trouncing of Santa Maria-St. Joseph on the road.

Constantine was tossed after arguing with an official. But Camarillo buried any hope of a Knights’ comeback with the return of Isaiah Otis, as the running back wore down St. Joseph with 164 yards on 19 carries and scored touchdown runs of 18 and 49 yards, with the latter breaking the will of the Knights and extending the lead to 28-0 in the third.

The Santa Maria Times reported that Constantine used foul language following two personal foul calls. The CIF rule for ejections state that once a player is tossed from a game, he must sit out the following week.

Thom Simmons, the CIF Southern Section Director of Communications, told The Times that Constantine will only play next week if the official who made the call has a change of heart.

"There is no appeal process for ejections, the only person who can rescind an ejection is the official who ejected the player," Simmons said.

Scorpion head coach Jack Willard told The Times that he’s confident that the officials will have a change of heart.

“If they rethink the whole situation and put it together in terms of where we're at in the season and what was actually said..." Willard told The Times. "Do I think it should be rescinded? Well yeah, I think it should be done and over with and we should have our whole team Friday."

Several people – including Scorpion players - took to Twitter in support of Constantine, using the hash tag #FreeJake.

One supporter of Constantine is Oxnard-Pacifica quarterback Kane Tinajero, who posted: “Hope Jake’s suspension gets reversed. Anyone who knows Jake knows he’s a fierce competitor. Shouldn't be suspended for playing with passion.”


Spectators who flocked to Kiefer Stadium on Friday anticipated a heavyweight battle between undefeated Westlake Village-Oaks Christian and traditional Southern California power La Puente-Bishop Amat.

What they might not have expected, though, was a shootout where defense was non-existent, as both teams combined for a basketball-like 101 points in Amat’s 61-40 win in the PAC-5 playoffs.

Torreahno Sweet shattered a school record with 370 yards rushing, breaking the previous mark of 369 held by Michael Wagner in 1998. Quarterback Damian Garcia combined for four touchdowns, three of them through the air.

Oaks Christian got 437 passing yards from quarterback Matt Corrall, while USC commit Michael Pittman II had an astonishing 18 catches for 386 yards and five scores.

The Lancers will now contend with another unbeaten on Black Friday: Bellflower-St. John Bosco.


Buena Park has a lot of youth on defense, with the unit comprising of mostly 2017 players.

But they grew quickly against Newport Beach-Corona Del Mar and rising ’17 quarterback Chase Garbers, sacking him five times and limiting him to a season-low 117 yards in the 35-17 victory.

Cedric Dashiel II and Ryan Nelson were two ’17 guys leading the pass rush, joining seniors Andrew Wright, Elijah Bynum and Alex Rojas in attacking Garbers throughout the night.

Dashiel II described the defensive performance of the Coyotes:

“Fast, physical, intense and we were focused. I believe we are peaking at the right time,” Dashiel II said.

Elijah Gates - another rising junior who recently got offered by Cincinnati - was dominant in one-on-one coverages against the Sea Kings, holding top receiver Peter Bush to just one catch. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015


Clovis wide receiver Coltin Velasquez will look to have a breakout game against a traditionally talented Edison High (Fresno) secondary as the Cougars, the No. 1 seed in the Central Section Division I playoffs, take on last year's D-I champion at Lamonica Stadium on Friday, Nov. 20 (photo by Lorenzo Reyna). 
One year ago, Clovis High was the young, feisty group looking to shock the Central Valley by stunning the No. 1 seed Edison, but fell to the eventual Central Section Division I champions 21-14 in the semifinals.

Now, the Cougars hold the No. 1 seed at 9-1 overall. And staring at them from the other side of the field at Lamonica Stadium on Friday night? The Edison Tigers.

The Clovis-Edison matchup is one of five big playoff games highlighted by Cali Gold Mine. Here’s the contests worth going to on Friday night:


The Tigers turned to power running and defense to propel their way to a 16-6 victory over Bakersfield last week. One of the best matchups will be Clovis’ dynamic wide receiving duo Coltin Velasquez and J.J. Wills going against Edison’s De’Andre Lockhart and Deshawn Tillman. Another big showdown? Clovis guard Tyler Collier going against national recruit Leveel Tatum in the trenches. Tatum and fellow Tiger defender David Tate were both offered by UNLV on Wednesday, Nov. 18. The last crucial battle that can alter the contest is Edison's running back hero from last week Jaylen King going against the Cougars' hard-nosed senior linebacker Tanner Rice, who has made his mark stuffing the run. 


Underrated athletes will be sprinkled at Jason Williams Field. Two dual-threat quarterbacks take the field as the Scorpions’ Jake Constantine will aim to keep Camarillo’s perfect season alive against Blake Jaeckels and his Knights. St. Joseph’s Joe Guzman and rising 2017 Scorpion prospect Aaron Lamb highlight the running backs. Out on the perimeter, look for Cam’s tall 6-foot-4 cornerback Frankie Tostado to have the task of locking up the Knights’ 6-foot, 180-pound C.J. Cole, who helped end Atascadero’s season last week with 10 catches, 119 yards and two touchdowns in the 26-16 road win to open the Southern Section Northern Division playoffs.


Rare second round battle between two 11-0 teams. The host Falcons rely on a running back committee to take the oxygen away from their opponents, with rising sophomore Richard Newton (team-high 634 yards and 16 touchdowns) leading the way. Defensively, senior defensive back Nathaniel Myles leads the way with three interceptions. The Cardinals will look to use their size and rushing attack to wear down Palmdale. Senior Michael Sorroco (1,163 yards, 15 touchdowns) and 6-foot-2 sophomore John Harris (469 yards and six touchdowns) spearhead the BD ground game. Versatile threat Av Bennett is a weapon at running back, receiver and special teams.


The Lions opened the PAC-5 playoffs with a 56-8 thrashing of Long Beach-Jordan. Now enters traditional Los Angeles region power Bishop Amat and its bevy of speed. Oaks Christian has quarterback Matt Corrall, running back Gil’Scott Jackson II and wide receiver/USC commit Michael Pittman II looking to go off on offense. There’s also fast-rising tight end Colby Parkinson, who has Texas A&M, Michigan and Georgia as early scholarship offers for the 6-foot-7 Class of 2017 prospect. Bishop Amat has two monster weapons in running back Torreahno Sweet and wideout Tyler Vaughns. Sweet has 1,306 yards and 30 touchdowns through 10 games, while the current USC commit Vaughns has 71 catches, 1,155 yards and 12 touchdowns.


This Southern Section Southwest Division battle between 9-2 teams in Orange County could come down to defense. Seven different Corona Del Mar players have intercepted a pass, with senior strong safety Sutty Barbato leading the way with two picks and nine breakups. The Sea Kings’ 2017 quarterback Chase Garber has gotten on some college coaches’ recruiting lists by throwing 2,598 yards, 32 touchdowns and three picks. Buena Park has an impressive foursome of defenders in linebacker Ricky Barbosa, hybrid defensive end Cedric Dashiel II, linebacker Anthony Wright and defensive lineman Ryan Nelson; all of whom have made eight tackles or more behind the line of scrimmage, with the 6-foot-4, 216-pound Wright tops with 18 stops for a loss and 9.5 sacks. Class of 2017 prospect Elijah Gates – who was recently offered by the University of Cincinnati - doubles as play-making wide receiver and shut down cornerback for the Coyotes.  

Monday, November 16, 2015


Marques Evans went into lock down mode this past year at cornerback, which has turned Newbury Park's 2017 prospect into a possible hot commodity on the recruiting trail (photo credit: 
The corner of Lesser Dr. and N. Reino Rd. in Newbury Park, Calif. is where you’ll locate “Evans Island.”

Marques Evans of Newbury Park High School emerged as one of the top island cornerbacks in the 805 this past year and, with another year of high school eligibility left, the 2017 prospect looks like the Panthers’ next highly-wanted college football prospect.

While Evans has shown his versatility through kickoff returns and playing wide receiver, it’s his skills at cornerback that has Cali Gold Mine glued. Here’s a closer look:

WHAT TO LIKE: He already passes the size test at a reported 6-foot-1, 180-pounds. Tall cornerbacks have become all the buzz for college and NFL teams with the emergence of Patrick Peterson and Richard Sherman. He covers and hovers over a wide receiver during man coverage like a fast moving cumulonimbus cloud. Has a long wing span that comes in good use when the ball is thrown his way in the end zone. Does an excellent job of keeping himself locked onto a receiver and rarely gives up any pass, proven by the eight pass deflections he had when tested by quarterbacks this past season. On screen passes, he closes fast on the football and tackles the ball carrier like a hard-hitting safety. Physical player who comes equipped with a mean streak for all four quarters.

Evans tripled as a cornerback, receiver and return ace for the 6-5 Newbury Park Panthers in 2015-16 (photo credit: Michael Coons/Acorn Newspapers). 

WHAT TO BUILD ON: Need to see more of his ability to play the run, especially against toss sweep or option plays. Though he’s done fairly well when he plays off of a receiver, he’s been more effective at playing up at the line of scrimmage against wideouts.

OVERALL: Evans is a marquee talent at a traditional powerhouse in Ventura County. The size/speed/aggression trifecta that he brings at cornerback should make him a highly-wanted college prospect. The junior, who intercepted three passes for the 6-5 Panthers in 2015-16, says UCLA is the lone school talking to him so far. His cornerback skills makes him look like current Bruin DB Adarius Pickett.

Sunday, November 15, 2015


Injured Sacramento-Inderkum player Derrick Henderson (left) checks cell phone messages with Tiger teammate Ryan Davis during the Tigers' 82-32 rout of Lincoln on Friday, Nov. 13. Inderkum players helped dedicate their 50-point victory to slain Grant High cornerback Jaulon Clavo, who was lost to a shooting outside of the GHS campus (photo credit: Steve German). 
The Sac-Joaquin Section has been painted in blue and yellow colors to honor Grant High School – following a tragedy in the 916 on Friday, Nov. 13.

Grant Pacer football cornerback Jaulon Clavo was one of two players shot inside a car well away from the GHS campus, which happened before kickoff of the Pacers’ section playoff game against Modesto-Beyer. The game was postponed due to the shooting. Clavo – who spent three seasons with Grant after starting his prep career at Inderkum High during his freshman year – was pronounced dead later that night. Fullback Malik Johnson was the other Pacer who suffered gun shot wounds. 

The shockwaves reverberated throughout the Sacramento region – and prompted one family member at Inderkum to play the game of his life in honor of Clavo.

Cousin Jimmie Johnson rumbled to 178 yards and two touchdowns as his Inderkum Tigers trounced Lincoln 82-32. Johnson spoke to the Sacramento Bee’s Joe Davidson with tears falling from his eyes.

Said Johnson: “I was getting taped up for the game when I heard he got shot in the neck and died. He was a great guy, and we grew up together. He always made me happy. I saw him last weekend ... but I didn’t get to say I loved him.”

He wasn’t the only one rallying behind Grant. So is Granite Bay High; the Pacers’ possible opponent if they beat Beyer in a game now scheduled for Monday, Nov. 16, at 5 p.m.

Granite Bay, which beat Downey 42-31 on Nov. 13, reportedly tied blue and yellow ribbons on a sign that reads “Welcome to Granite Bay.”

Beyer head coach Doug Severe expressed his sympathies to Grant through the Modesto Bee.

“My heart goes out to the coaches, players, the family of those players and the community of Grant High,” Severe told The Bee. “I know how much I love my kids. The game of football becomes such a minute detail when talking about the life of young people. That’s someone’s child, a teammate, a friend, somebody who won’t be at school on Monday.”


Fresno’s Edison High is another school that has dealt with its own personal tragedies. The Tigers lost former players Marquis Sutton and Deondre "Day Day" Howard to shootings in the last three years, with Howard losing his life in Aug. 2015.

But Edison showed the same grit, cohesiveness and heart that turned them into the Central Section’s Division I champion and state playoff representative last year, upending the mighty Bakersfield High Drillers 16-6 at Sunnyside High on Nov. 13.

How did the Tigers do it? Power running and stout defense – the same ingredients that powered last year’s 12-2 team. Jaylen King did the ground work with 127 yards on 27 carries. A quarterback sack and safety from linebacker Jake Hanson helped seal the win.

Fellow Tiger defenders Leveel Tatum III, Kobe Manning, Dee Tillman and David Tate all helped bottle the Drillers’ air attack, holding BHS to 15 passing yards.

Next up, Clovis High and the top-seeded Cougars, in a rematch of last year’s epic 21-14 semifinal game won by Edison.


Orange Lutheran running back Brandon McKinney sprints past St. Bonaventure's defense during the first quarter of the Lancers' wild 54-44 road playoff win over the Seraphs in a PAC-5 playoff game (photo by Lorenzo Reyna). 

Led by an astronomical 576 rushing yards and L.J. Northington, Brandon McKinney and Dominick Austin collaborating for seven touchdowns, Orange Lutheran ran past a feisty St. Bonaventure team at Ventura College 54-44.

Northington tucked it and ran to the tune of 102 yards on 10 carries with three touchdowns, often finding his creases in the middle of the Seraphs’ defense. Juniors McKinney and Austin combined for 17 carries, 240 yards and four touchdowns against a Seraph defense that had no more than seven defenders in the box for most of the night.

Now comes this daunting task for the Lancers: stunning the state’s No. 1 team in Corona-Centennial on Friday, Nov. 20. The Huskies already own a 35-14 rout against OLU on Sept. 11 in a non-league game played at Orange Coast College.


I’m not the most familiar with Grant High. The only time I’ve ever interacted with a Pacer player was through camps and tournaments during the off-season.

But whenever I do talk with a Pacer, they’ve always been approachable and polite, even though they live in what’s considered an unsafe environment. On that note, I’ve done stories on various athletes throughout California who have had to overcome personal tribulations to cement their name in front of college coaches.

The death of Clavo doesn’t…I repeat…doesn’t represent a problem with Grant High. Shootings can happen anywhere. As it is, Marquis Sutton’s death occurred 15 minutes south of where I used to live, and the community support for Edison High that year stretched throughout the 559 and 661.

I won't be at the Grant/Beyer game on Monday, but my hope is that every seat will be taken to prove that evil will never win. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015


Centennial wide receiver Javon McKinley gets his sidelines energized with the ball in his hand. The Corona-based powerhouse has its eyes set on a state championship. But standing in the way for the Huskies is West Hills-Chaminade in the first round of the CIF PAC-5 playoffs, which starts on Friday, Nov. 13 (photo credit: Max Preps). 
One team’s high school football season will continue, while another will turn in its equipment starting next Monday.

It's now playoff time in the Golden State and Cali Gold Mine has pinpointed five key battles worth attending from the Central Valley to the Inland Empire.

Some of these first round battles sound like a pairing that normally happens when it’s time to crown a section champion. Nevertheless, here’s the contests worth watching under the lights this weekend:


Here’s a battle that sounds more like a duel for the Central Section Division I crown. But both the Tigers and Drillers dealt with a youth movement, plus offensive lapses for the early portion of 2015-16.

Now, both teams are red-hot, as they've won three of their last five games.

Edison has highly-wanted defensive tackle Leveel Tatum III, who is currently getting courted by several Mountain West schools. Bakersfield High’s Jakell Tomlin is the Drillers’ main weapon on offense.


In this 805 battle of two 8-2 squads, it’s speed (St. Joseph) against power (Atascadero).

The Knights have underrated dual-threat quarterback Blake Jaeckels, who has 29 combined touchdowns including 22 through the air. Joe Guzman leads the ground game with 885 yards and 12 touchdowns. C.J. Cole is a fast riser for SJ’s 2017 class after leading the way with 47 catches, 773 yards and nine touchdowns.

The Greyhounds will bring two powerhouse running backs to wear down the Knights, as Marc Martin (1,114 yards) and R.J. Reusche (880 yards) double as hard-nosed 6-foot-1 backs.


Running and throwing threats at quarterback highlight this televised battle in Ventura County, which will be seen on Fox Sports West.

Orange Lutheran has senior L.J. Northington, who has 20 combined touchdowns (10 throwing and 10 rushing) for the 5-5 Lancers. St. Bonnie used the arm and legs of Darius Vines to ride into the playoffs with a 7-3 record.

The Seraphs have two intriguing boulders in the trenches: emerging 2017 offensive tackle Casey Roddick and defensive tackle Noah Bitow, who landed his first scholarship pledge from Adams State this week.


The Spartans and Coyotes will meet in one of the more highly-anticipated rematches in the CIF Southern Section Western Division bracket.

The last contest saw top-seeded Calabasas escape with a 13-10 victory at Oxnard. Rio Mesa was without its top wide receiving playmaker Steve Houston, who is currently verbally committed to Washington State. San Diego State commit Jon Lenard was doing the aerial damage with six catches for 134 yards and one touchdown in the last contest.

Also on this field will be some highly-courted athletes on Calabasas’ side, including linebacker Alec Stevenson, wideouts Darnay Holmes and Keyshawn Johnson Jr. and quarterback Tristan Gebbia, who has 11 reported offers including Syracuse, West Virginia and Alabama.


State-ranked teams will go at it in this PAC-5 playoffs opener, as Chaminade (No. 13) will look to play spoiler against Centennial (No. 1) and its quest to win a state championship.

The Eagles have prolific sophomore T.J. Pledger, who finished the regular season with 1,227 yards and 24 touchdowns. The Huskies are stockpiled with talent, as six players in the 2016 class have already given a verbal pledge to a four-year school: Cam Bynum (Cal), Daniel Juarez (Cal), J.J. Taylor (Arizona), Kentrell Love (Washington), Desmond Williams (Boise State) and Chacho Ulloa (Stanford).

The Huskies aren’t done yet on the recruiting trail. Wide receiver Javon McKinley – who holds 23 reported offers – is next to join his aforementioned teammates at the next level.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


Joshua Keith provided some explosive plays for Etiwanda High this past season. He just may be one of the best kept secrets in the Inland Empire (photo contributed). 
There wasn’t much highlights for Etiwanda High football this season, as the Eagles fell to 3-7 this past year including a 1-4 mark in the Baseline League.

But the best highlight on 13500 Victoria Ave. wore No. 13 and blazed through secondaries.

Joshua Keith got fans jumping out of their seats and defensive coordinators chastising their defensive backs - by putting together a solid senior campaign that saw the 6-foot, 185-pound Keith blow past defenses with his reported 4.4 40-yard dash time.

Could this be one of the best sleepers in the talent-heavy Inland Empire? Time to weigh in:

WHAT TO LIKE: He has an explosive get-off after the ball is snapped and is already in front of his defender in three seconds. Once he gets past an aggressive man defender, he shows a wicked second gear with his speed that gets him to stretch receiving plays 20 to 50 yards down the field. Doesn’t jog when he runs his routes and goes full speed. Has caught passes with two or three defenders surrounding him, then zig zags his way to the end zone. Shows good concentration when defenders are making contact with him and fighting for the ball. Has adjusted very nicely to the deep passes that requires him stepping in front of his defender and attempt a diving catch. One of the best in the I.E. at executing the stop-and-go route.

WHAT TO BUILD ON: Most of his biggest receptions came against defenders playing off of him instead of press man situations. Will need to see more of his ability to fight off jams at the line of scrimmage. Even though he’s a willing run blocker, he was seldom seen planting his shoulders and burying his opponent to the turf.

OVERALL: With 38 catches, 557 yards and five touchdowns in eight games, Keith rarely was given the football at Etiwanda. It’s too bad considering how much of a playmaker he was for the Eagles. Still, he has enough tools to perhaps get on board with an NCAA Division II program or maybe a Football Championship Subdivision school. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015


Arroyo Grande scatback Matthew Sill looks for an opening down the right sidelines during the Eagles' 24-10 win over Atascadero on Oct. 30. The Eagles - the reigning PAC-5 champs at 9-1 and 4-0 in league play - could land the No. 2 seed when the seedings are unveiled for the CIF Southern Section Northern Division III playoffs on Sunday, Nov. 8 (photo by Lorenzo Reyna). 
Three 10-0 teams stand on top of the CIF Southern Section Northern Division III pedestal.

However, only one gets crowned the No. 1 seed come Sunday, Nov. 8.
Camarillo, Palmdale and Bishop Diego (Santa Barbara) are all that’s left from the ranks of the unbeaten. And all three will be heading into a group of death that features the reigning section champion (Paso Robles), former section title holders  (Lompoc, Arroyo Grande, Atascadero, etc.) and teams ending the year on a hot streak (Lompoc and AG).

It’s time to sort out this cabinet of goodies for this division, which one year ago produced a state playoff qualifier in the Paso Robles Bearcats. Here’s who I believe deserves the No. 1 and which teams could challenge for the title:


The case: Victories over state ranked Arroyo Grande and Calabasas, plus wins over Thousand Oaks, Newbury Park, Paso Robles and St. Bonaventure (Ventura).

I don’t see how or why the Scorpions won’t land the No. 1 seed. What more do the Scorps have to do? Drop 80 on an opponent and impress the College Football Playoff committee?

This team has toppled opponents featuring college-ready talent, particularly Calabasas, St. Bonnie, T.O and Newbury Park; all of which has multiple NCAA Division I prospects or commits on its roster.

It’s been a solid reversal for Camarillo. One season ago, the Scorps needed a miracle Hail Mary from Jake Constantine and Frankie Tostado to seal an at-large berth at 6-4. But now, Camarillo has positioned itself to be the No. 1.


The case: Victories over Lompoc, Independence (Bakersfield), St. Joseph (Santa Maria) and Atascadero. Plus the outright PAC-5 championship.

Arroyo Grande’s last lost was against the projected No. 1 seed. Since then, the Eagles have been red-hot with a power running game and takeaway machine on defense.

If things go the way it’s projected, the bracket could pit another playoff matchup between the Eagles and the next team highlighted…


The case: Victories over Santa Ynez and St. Joseph and the outright Los Padres League title.

Lompoc had a 41.1 rating according to Max Preps during the week of Nov. 7, giving the Braves the third-highest rating among the Northern Division III field. However, the downside for the Braves is their 12.5 strength of schedule rating, which placed them at 12th.

Lompoc’s season opening loss to AG likely puts the LPL champs at the No. 3 slot, which could mean rematches against projected No. 15 seeds Righetti (Santa Maria) or Pioneer Valley (Santa Maria) in the bottom half of the bracket.


The case: Victories over Ventura (Channel League champion) and Newbury Park.

This spot could come down to the Lancers and Atascadero, which defeated PR 31-14 plus owns a better league record than T.O. at 3-1 in the PAC-5. St. Joseph should also be in the mix for the four spot with its 8-2 record.

But once again, there’s the strength of schedule argument.

Thousand Oaks ranked higher than both Atascadero and St. Joseph in that category with a 22.4 score. The season opening win over Ventura and season finale victory over Newbury Park looks great on T.O’s application for a higher seed.


Bishop Diego has never had a perfect regular season under 12-year head coach Tom Crawford. Yet, even with the 10-0 mark, the Cardinals could wind up no higher than the No. 6 seed.

Two gleaming wins for the Cards is the 43-20 thumping of Immanuel (Reedley), which got awarded the No. 1 seed in the Central Section’s Division V bracket and the narrow 29-21 victory over Santa Fe Christian, which went 9-1.

But Mission Prep (San Luis Obispo) was the only other non-losing team that got defeated by the Cards…and the Royals play in the lower Northwest XI field.

As for Palmdale, the Falcons mainly flew past teams in the desert region. The speed of the 805 scene could be vastly different. A No. 7 seed could be in the works.


Lompoc became a different team following its 34-28 defeat at AG. Arroyo Grande renewed itself following its 27-13 home loss to Camarillo.

Both teams have since won a combined 16 straight games – and are looking poised for another deep playoff run.

They win on defense and a committee of backs. The key for both will be winning through the air when needed. But one of these teams could challenge CGM’s pick for the NDIII crown Camarillo for the title game.


Camarillo defenders Brett Herron and Anthony Feldstott (No. 51) help bring down Royal running back Diego Reynoso while Collin Kirksey (No. 1) and Joseph Hunt surround the stop. Camarillo sealed its first-ever 10-0 regular season with a 49-21 romp of the Highlanders, which also solidified the Camino League title (photo by Lorenzo Reyna). 
One year ago, Camarillo was the team on the outside looking in, as the Scorpions needed an at-large berth to qualify for the playoffs.

Now, the Scorpions are in the school record books for completing the first-ever undefeated varsity football regular season on Mission Oaks Blvd – and awaiting word on if the No. 1 seed in the CIF Southern Section Northern Division III bracket belongs to them.

The 49-21 trouncing of Royal (Simi Valley) at Carl Thompson Field on Friday, Nov. 6 sealed the Camino League championship and 10-0 mark for Camarillo. The playoff fate of the Scorps will rest in the hands of the CIF Southern Section committee, as playoff seeds are unveiled on Sunday, Nov. 8.

Elijah Alexander – who gave the Scorps their most electric plays through two interceptions, two catches that stretched 40 and 38 yards and a 52-yard gain on a fly sweep run during Camarillo’s opening drive – described Camarillo High’s historic night as a “speechless” moment.

Said Alexander: “This is the first time the school has ever done this (go undefeated). It feels so good. I love these boys. It feels amazing to come back from the season we had last year to this remarkable season and making history here.”

Colby Stevens, who went three ways as a bruising running back, underneath receiving target and run-stuffing safety, was another Scorpion who was at a loss for words.

“I’m definitely speechless,” Stevens said. “My team has worked very hard and we definitely deserve it. We knew this team was going to be special because we all grew up together.”

The Scorpions scored first after Alexander’s sweep run led to a 6-yard touchdown pass from Jake Constantine to Wyatt Zambri. A two-point conversion try made it 8-0. Constantine then showed his flair for evading defenders and firing the long ball, as he shed past two Highlander defenders before zipping his throw to Desmond Clancy on an 18-yard strike. The next play saw Constantine find Alexander one-on-one with his defender in the left corner of the goal line, with the versatile senior coming down with the 17-yard touchdown and the 14-0 lead.

Royal (4-6), though, wasn’t going to check out of the game right away. This was the same team that had all of its losses decided by two touchdowns or less, including a near upset of Newbury Park (44-37 defeat) last week.

Quarterback Matt Sciumbato gave Camarillo fits with his arm and legs by engineering a long drive that culminated in a Daniel Henderson 1-yard touchdown run and the lead cutting to 14-7.

Constantine, though, marched Camarillo down the field with its two-minute offense and ended the drive by scrambling down the left side and then barreling past two Royal defenders for the 12-yard touchdown.

Constantine combined for five touchdowns, including four through the air and two that went to Frankie Tostado in the second half (8 and 1-yard scores) to seal Cam’s flawless regular season, plus possible top seed.

“It feels great knowing that this time, we don’t have to play the No. 1 seed on the road,” Constantine said. “They (the No. 16 seed) now comes to us.”